June 10, 2015

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Robert Tracinski, in the Federalist, details what the NY Times has finally learned about the fraud Paul Ehrlich has been running since his book, The Population Bomb, was published 40 some years ago. We have taken up the subject of the famous Julian Simon wager that Ehrlich lost 30 years ago before. The last time we did that was in Pickings last February 1st.

The New York Times just published an extraordinary “retro report”—a short video paired with an article—looking back at Paul Ehrlich’s “population bomb” theory, the fear that an uncontrolled human population would outstrip the ability of the Earth to support it.

The Times lays out some of the evidence for the theory’s failure, including the fact that the world’s population was about 3.5 billion when Ehrlich first made his apocalyptic prognostications in 1968. It’s 7 billion now, and we haven’t starved, we haven’t run out of resources, and we’re better off than we’ve ever been.

This report wouldn’t be extraordinary anywhere else. In the right-leaning press, it would be considered a pretty mild take on Ehrlich and his crackpot theories. The only thing that makes it extraordinary is that it isn’t in a right-leaning publication but in the citadel of the establishment left.

The video features two particularly good moments. In one of them, Indian development economist Gita Sen explains why Ehrlich’s theories became irrelevant in her country, which was supposed to be the first to starve. Instead, “the Green Revolution came to India with a big bang and a boom in such a rapid way that India has never looked back.” In the other, Stewart Brand, a former disciple of Ehrlich’s, asks: “How many years do you have to not have the world end to decide that it didn’t end because that reason was wrong?”

Most remarkable, however, is Ehrlich’s answer. Yes, he’s still around, the Times interviewed him, and they asked him that question. I got the impression it may have been the first time someone prominent has asked Ehrlich to answer this directly, and his guard seems to have been down, probably because he remembers all the puffball coverage he’s gotten from the New York Times over the years. So he answered it, and it has to be heard to be believed. He said: “One of the things that people don’t understand is that timing, to an ecologist, is very, very different from timing to an average person.” I wonder, is BS still the same for an ecologist as it is for an average person?

It is such an obviously arrogant, dishonest, evasive answer that the Times report features it prominently, and not in a positive way. They captured in one line the sudden realization that Ehrlich is a charlatan who has been conning the highest levels of the culture for years. …

… But there is one big omission in the report: the triumph of Ehrlich’s intellectual antipode, Julian Simon. He isn’t mentioned at all in the video, even though plenty of people who have been influenced by him are still around. (For example, they might have interviewed Matt Ridley, author of The Rational Optimist and 2012 winner of the Julian Simon Memorial Award.) Simon gets only a semi-dismissive mention in the accompanying text.

‘Some preternaturally optimistic analysts concluded that humans would always find their way out of tough spots. Among them was Julian L. Simon, an economist who established himself as the anti-Ehrlich, arguing that “humanity’s condition will improve in just about every material way.” In 1997, a year before he died, Mr. Simon told Wired magazine that “whatever the rate of population growth is, historically it has been that the food supply increases at least as fast, if not faster.” ‘

But the story is way more interesting than that. In 1980, Simon and Ehrlich made a famous bet about the future prices of commodities. If Ehrlich was right and a rising population was burning through the Earth’s resources, this ought to show up in commodities prices. As metals all got scarce, they should become more expensive. Instead, they all got cheaper—as they have done for the past century while the world’s population has more than tripled—and Simon won the bet handily. …



Kevin Williamson posts on the NY Times running errands for Democrat operatives.

… A couple of Times reporters spent Friday morning basking in praise for their “nice scoop” — the less-than-remarkable public knowledge that Marco Rubio was written four traffic tickets over the course of two decades — but, as Brent Scher of the Washington Free Beacon pointed out, neither of the reporters in the byline — Alan Rappeport and Steve Eder — nor the researcher also credited by the Times for the piece — Kitty Bennett — ever accessed the traffic records in question. But somebody did: American Bridge, a left-wing activist group, had pulled the records just before the Times piece appeared, and the Times employed some cagey language, with the relevant sentence beginning: “According to a search of the Miami-Dade and Duval County court dockets. . . . ” A search? Yes. Whose search? A piece of the news that apparently is not fit to print.

That the New York Times’s political desk is thick with lazy partisans who take their cues — and in some cases, their research — from Democratic interest groups is not a secret, though the Times really ought to have, if not the honesty and the institutional self-respect, then at least the sense of self-preservation (these things do come to light) to disclose that it is being fed opposition research and choosing to publish it as though it were news. …

… In the annals of bad political driving, the Rubios do not even merit a footnote. The standard case study was Senator Edward Kennedy, but one of the examples that stands out in my mind is that of George Stephanopoulos — who, when he was running the Clinton White House, managed to get himself arrested for leaving the scene of an accident and driving with an expired license after failing to negotiate a parking space in front of a bar in Georgetown. He popped a bunch of mints; there was no drunk-driving charge. I remember the episode because of one detail: Stephanopoulos was driving an old Honda CRX, which I found disappointing at the time — I’d assumed that senior White House advisers drove better cars. …



Glenn Reynolds in his USA Today column with more.

… Rappeport, Eder and Bennett’s earth-shattering traffic scoop produced rather a lot of mockery from people on the right, and from some on the left. Longtime political correspondent Jeff Greenfield tweeted: “Rubio TrafficTicketGate? This a parody of political journalism gone nuts, right?”

Yeah, pretty much. To add to the embarrassment, the Times, though it has since silently corrected the piece, referred to Marco Rubio’s Ford F-150 pickup as a “sports utility vehicle,” displaying the level of automotive literacy expected of Manhattan residents.

Folks on Twitter mocked the Times with the #RubioCrimeSpree hashtag, featuring such other alleged crimes as “Drank milk after the expiration,” “Red wine with fish,” and my favorite, “Called Chris Matthews, asked him if his refrigerator was running.”

Even most of the major newspapers and networks declined to treat the Times’ story seriously. Fox News emphasized the hit-piece style of the story, and The Wall Street Journal mocked it; CNN was mum; and The Washington Post’s Erik Wemple warned the Times it is setting itself up for criticism if it doesn’t hold other presidential candidates to the same level of scrutiny. Of the major networks, only MSNBC gave the story the time of day. …



Instapundit reminds us what a creep Jimmy Carter is and was.

Former President Jimmy Carter spoke recently to an AARP group, telling them, “Americans still have racist tendencies or feelings of superiority to people of color.”  Nice to hear such pro-American words from a former President.

Carter’s other recent gems include an oped last August in which Carter accused Israel of committing war crimes against Palestinians.  He also defended Obama’s decision to miss the unity rally in Paris after the Charlie Hebdo shootings, saying, “President Obama’s just come back from vacation, and I know how it is when you’ve been gone for a week or two.”

The similarities between Carter and Obama are growing day by day– although a poll last summer had Obama beating Carter for the title of “worst President since World War II” by five percentage points.  I suspect Obama’s lead in that poll would be much higher today.



Craig Pirrong has another go at the Elon Musk windmill.

In one of my periodic Quixotic moments, I tilted at the Cult of Elon Musk. First, I argued that he or someone manipulated the prices of Tesla and Solar City stocks: I stand by that analysis. Second, I argued that the supposed visionary’s true genius was for feeding lustily at the taxpayer teat.

It is a testament to my great influence that the Cult of Musk has grown only larger in the two years since I made a run at him. But maybe the spell is breaking. For the LA Times just ran a long article detailing just how much his fortune was picked from our pockets. According to the LAT, Musk companies have raked in $4.9 billion in various subsidies and tax breaks, give or take.

That’s 10 figures, people.

That’s bad enough. What’s worse is Musk’s “defense.” It is a farrago of intellectual dishonesty, logical fallacies, condescension, and arrogance.

Musk only replied to the LAT after repeated inquiries, but it is good that the paper persisted. Musk’s rationalizations have to be seen to be believed. …